Page last updated at 10:58 GMT, Friday, 22 January 2010

Cardiff mother's brain tumour funds plea


Holly Timbrell, 14, on how she found out about her brain tumour and how she stays positive

The mother of a 14-year-old girl with a brain tumour says more research is urgently needed into how they develop.

Holly Timbrell, from Cardiff, was diagnosed with a tumour after suffering repeated headaches, but doctors are unable to say what will happen next.

Her mother Karen is urging people to sign a petition on the 10 Downing St website calling for more funding.

Doctors say brain tumours account for almost a third of cancer deaths amongst children every year.

Holly first started feeling ill seven months ago with a headache which would not go away.

After seeing her doctor she was rushed into hospital for a brain scan and is now being treated by doctors at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.

Mrs Timbrell said: "There was just complete shock, devastation, you don't know how to react."

Holly and Karen Timbrell
If over the next 10 years the funding is increased they may be able to cure it before it does any damage
Karen Timbrell

Because of the position of the tumour, doctors have had problems collecting enough cells to find out more.

"She is having a scan every three months to see how it develops," added Mrs Timbrell.

"The team are very positive and hope that it will grow very slowly if at all."

Holly is back in school and trying to live as normal a life as possible.

"I try not to think about it," she said.

"I don't think there's any point in worrying about what's going to happen in the future because you don't know.

"I just try and stay positive."

But Mrs Timbrell said since Holly was diagnosed she has become aware of what she says is a lacking of funding for research.

"We don't know what causes brain tumours so we don't know how to prevent them.

"The cures are very limited so the need for more research is paramount - it's less than one percent of all cancer research funding."

She said she hoped research would help her daughter.

"If over the next 10 years the funding is increased they may be able to cure it before it does any damage."

'Survival rates'

Sue Farrington-Smith, director of the charity Brain Tumour Research, said a lack of funding had led to survival rates from the disease to lag behind that of other cancers.

She said an analysis conducted by the charity last year found in 2007 there were 33% more deaths from brain tumours than in 2001, yet other cancers, such as leukaemia, were 39% lower than in 2001.

She said spending on brain tumour research in the UK was some £3m-5m annually, while spending on research in to breast cancer and leukaemia by public and charity bodies was more than £50m.

She said: "That is why [patients of those diseases] have been able to see such positive results and improvements in survival rates over the last 20 years.

"But for brain cancer we have definitely got inequality of funding, and we lag behind in funding for research, which is why we're working with the government to try and push them to allocate more funds.

Research pool

Dr Jenny Thomas leads the neurosciences team treating Holly.

She said further research into tumours would help both doctors and their patients.

"More research is always a good thing to have," she said.

"It helps you to understand the history of the disease. It helps you understand treatment options.

"It helps you plan with the patient and the team of people who are looking after that individual.

"There are many groups working on specific projects. What we can try and do is pool our research together to make sure our patients here in Wales get the best knowledge and best advice on their condition."

The Welsh Assembly Government said this financial year it had provided £1.3m to support the Wales Cancer Trials Network (WCTN).

It said WCTN was supporting four studies into childhood brain tumours at an estimated annual cost of £105,000.

A spokesperson added: "In addition, we run an annual research funding scheme which researchers with an interest in childhood brain tumours are eligible to apply for."

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